Good leadership skills are much the same as good customer care skills – and here is why

We all know what good customer care looks and feels like don’t we? It makes us feel good, confident that we are being listened too. It creates a trusting relationship.

We certainly recognise poor customer care when it happens to us. Unhelpful, making excuses, rude, lacking understanding or empathy. We have all experienced this at some time or other. And, it’s really not very nice! We end up frustrated, angry, and if we can, we might take our business elsewhere.

Much of my experience come from within teams providing direct services to people. Some would say that they were not customers. This is because I worked in the public sector and they didn’t have a choice to take their business elsewhere. I always say, all the more reason to ensure that they are receiving the best possible customer care.

The way I see it if we always think about people as customers who can go elsewhere if they are not happy, then chances are we will put more energy into making them happy!

So, what about our team. Do you think of your team as your customers? Maybe not before now, but just stop and give that a little thought. Consider for a moment your role within the team. 

Your role is to help ensure that your team can do their very best job. If you consider your tasks ultimately you are there to serve your team, so that collectively you meet your goals, hit your targets. 

For me, providing a good ‘leadership service’ to your team is no different to providing good ‘customer service’.

A team member – your customer – wants some simple key things which are exactly what you would want as customer of any business.

1. Be Nice!

People don’t like the work ‘nice’. They say it’s wishy washy, and lacks gravitas.

When it refers to people I beg to differ. Being nice, is shorthand for a whole raft of traits such as being:

  • thoughtful, 
  • pleasant, 
  • polite, 
  • respectful,
  • kind,
  • helpful,
  • considerate.

Being nice is all of those, and more, wrapped up in a nice bundle. What is wrong with that? Who wouldn’t want someone to be nice to them?

2. Be Honest

Do you know what makes customers really really angry? It’s when we know that we are being lied to, or fobbed off. 

It drives us mad as customers when this is happening to us, and your team will certainly come to recognise it in you if you are not honest with them. 

Tell people the truth. Tell them what you can do and what you can’t.

If you can’t tell them the full story – be honest about that. 

Making excuses, or covering up is way worse than being told that there is a bigger picture which you can’t go into for confidentiality reasons.

3. Keep your promises

If you have committed to doing something, then do it. And, if for some reason you can’t let the person know why and when you will be able to do it. 

Set realistic and appropriate expectations – and then follow through. 

4. Be understanding 

Take the time to understand. All too often we need to stop and listen to what is really going on.  To get to the crux of the issue and find the right way forward. Time spent on understanding at the start of the ‘transaction’ with your ‘customer’ will save far more time in the the long run. 

That’s it. Four simple customer care principles which translate directly into your leadership role. Think of your team as your customers and you will make sure they are getting the service they deserve.  

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Top tips for deciding whether something is worth your energy and ways to carve out extra time in your day

How many times today have you done something and then thought to yourself, what was even the point of that? It’s easy to get sucked into a continuous wheel of doing things that add no value. Whether you are working for yourself, or in a big corporate organisation, often these pointless energy sappers can be a form of self sabotage or procrastination.

Oh, I know – I used to do this all the time. There would be that report that really needed to be written, but I would spend a bit more time checking time sheets. Or, I knew that I could add most value by going and having a conversation with one of my team. Instead I’d read all those emails that I have been copied into, for no good reason!

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I know that some of the stuff we have to do doesn’t seem to add any value on the face of it – and we have to do it anyway! It’s the other stuff that I am talking about. The things that we have convinced ourselves are vital, take up our time, and yet we are not really sure why!

You can break this cycle of spending time doing things that you don’t need to do.

Firstly, you need to recognise the difference between the stuff that has to be done verses the stuff we have added in to our processes.

Even having recognised something as a ‘must do’, ask yourself a few questions.

Is it a corporate or legal requirement? If it is, then can you streamline the process in any way? Does it have to be YOU who does it?

For example, those timesheets I referred to earlier. It didn’t need ME to check them all. Yes, they had to be checked. Yes, as the team leader you need to know if something is amiss. But, checking them could be done by anyone other than the person submitting them. Peculiarities can be highlighted to you to act on.

“Ahh, but!” I hear you say. “What if the person checking them can’t be trusted to do that.” If this is the case then the problem you need to resolve is one of trust and accountability. Spot check occasionally if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Many, many years ago, when I was a junior clerk, I recall asking a senior officer why they were stood at the photocopier, waiting for copies to come off. That was my job! They told me that they were so busy they didn’t have time to pass the work to someone else (me) to do, and anyway they disliked passing down the mundane tasks.

That didn’t make sense to me then and it doesn’t now. We convince ourselves that it is quicker to do something ourself. Or that we should ‘muck in’ and do some of the so called ‘menial’ tasks ourselves.

Of course that doesn’t make sense.

It’s better to put a system, or some training, in place to ensure that work is being carried out at the appropriate level.

It’s not a case of being too grand to do certain tasks but thinking about the cost of your time.

I learnt a lot from the ‘menial’ tasks when I was in a more junior position. Not least, that there was a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that my role was a vital one. I knew that I was playing my part in ensuring the organisation ran efficiently.

Even today, whenever I carry out tasks, I always ask myself, ‘does this need to be me?’.

If the answer is yes, my next question is ‘How can I streamline or simplify the process’.

Systems make our lives easier. If you have a simple system for carrying out a process you can save countless minutes – and all those minutes add up. Alerts, reminders, calendar entries, tasks list all readily available on your computer can play a huge part. But, so often they are not used effectively. In addition there are a raft of work planning and tracking systems out there if you have the budget.

Avoid double handling of work. Cut out duplicate entries of data. Do you have 2 spreadsheets which do the same thing, or could be made to meet multiple needs?

This might all seem obvious but so often in my conversations with team leaders, the simple fixes have not been explored.
If the task is not a corporate or legal requirement, ask yourself why you do it.
Does it add value in some way? If you have a client base does it add value to your customer?
Or, is it something you have always done because you were told that it should be done? When we step back and look at what we are doing in this way we can find that we have tasks on our to do list that we don’t need to do at all. We have always done them, without thinking.

Again this seems too simplistic.
Why would we do things that we don’t really need to? We do though, all the time. Often these things are our security blanket. We feel comfortable doing them. It gives us the excuse we need to put off doing something more challenging.

But, if you are always under pressure, too busy, to stop and talk to your team members. Or drowning under the endless to do list. Then have a very good look at what is on that list.

Do YOU need to do it?

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Imposter syndrome? It’s not just you.

Impostor syndrome is the name given to self doubt about your accomplishments and the internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Those of us with impostor syndrome tendencies can have low self-confidence and a fear of failure. We experience an internal struggle between achieving success and avoiding being “found out.”

This in turn can hold us back from reaching our full potential.

It’s surprisingly common, particularly in women. It’s also very easy to feel like ‘it’s just you’. But I can promise you it’s not!

Having been plagued with this all my life it has recently hit me hard again, precisely because of my blogs.

After all, who am I to be advising others on leadership skills? Who would want anything that I have to offer? Who am I kidding, trying to help others when I have plenty of my own issues?

Those of us who suffer from this tend to be very self critical. Even when we do something well we will brush away praise, be flippant about success. We tend to overwork, people-please, and experience stress and depression.

So I took a step back. It was the first time ever that I have done this. In my career I have always ploughed on regardless and kept my fears and anxiety with me.

In taking that step back I spent some time to think about what this fear is really about, and how I could fast-track my way back to my path.

I came to the realisation that by spotting the symptoms I had the perfect opportunity to develop my own self-awareness in this area.

I also reminded myself that ultimately, my purpose is to help others. So how could I use my experience to help others? By getting back on this particular horse, of course.

So if you are a fellow sufferer of this restricting syndrome here are my top lessons learnt.

It’s not all your fault!
Human beings are engineered to worry. It’s helped us to survive, by being cautious.

Also, the culture we grow up in and the way we were brought up have an impact. For example, British people tend to own their success less well than our American counterparts.

As children we want to fit in and that can lead us to dampening down our natural self to please other people.

But, whilst we might not be able to change the reasons for our feelings we can change the impact they have on us.

And step one, is to recognise them.

The voice in your head.
Have you noticed that the negative voice in your head seems to have a megaphone, but the positive one whispers?

I’m not saying you should stop listening to the negative voice. In fact on occasion, it will have something useful to say that you might need to take account of.

What I do suggest is turning up the dial on the positive voice. Often the positive voice will be counteracting the negative voice and you must pay attention to it also.

Listen to both voices, but remember that more often than not the negative voice is saying things that are not REAL. It’s telling you what other people might be thinking or saying – but in reality it doesn’t know! It’s saying what you are used to believing, because that’s always worked for it in the past.
So acknowledge that and then dismiss what it is telling you.

Turn down the volume on the negative voice so you can stop and think about what is real, and what you are just assuming.

I find it helpful to have an image of my positive voice. Someone I trust and admire and who I know would have my best interests at heart. That turns my positive voice into my very own cheerleader.

You don’t have to be perfect
We are all works in progress. You don’t need to be perfect all the time. It’s okay to sometimes mess up. Find something to learn from the situation and move on quickly. Going over and over it in your head is not going to change what happened. It will simply drag you down when you could be getting on and fixing the matter.

Being wrong doesn’t make you a fraud. People get things wrong all the time. Successful people recognise this for what it is. Accepting you made a mistake will always make you a better person, not a worse one.

Accept what you have achieved
You will have achievements big and small scattered through your life. Know that you can do things well, because you have evidence of them. When the imposter syndrome starts to raise its head draw on the experience you have had of success. If you succeeded before you can do it again.

Stop worrying about what people think of you
They are probably too busy with their own imposter syndrome to be thinking anything about you. Generally people are glad that someone else has shown that they are not perfect either as it makes them feel better about themselves.

Avoid comparison-itis
Comparing yourself with others is very unhelpful. You are not them , you are you. And you are the best person in the world at being you. So just STOP it!

Recognise Imposter Syndrome
Say to yourself, “this is imposter syndrome’. It starts to lose its power when you see it for what it is.

For myself, I have come to realise that it’s because I am just like anyone else and that I have faced up to my fears, that makes what I have to say valid. It might not be useful to everyone. But, if what I write helps even one person, then I am meeting my aim.

As the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Top 10 Tips For Motivating Teams and Individuals

Is motivation a challenge for you? Do you struggle to keep everyone inspired and excited about work? I know how tough this can be. I know how easy it is to feel like giving it up.

But, as the leader you MUST aim to keep your team motivated. If you don’t then who will? In my experience it will be the next team leader who will pick up that task and before you know it you are no longer the team leader!

Here are my top tips for motivating teams and individuals:

Think about what motivates YOU. 

Whilst we are all individuals, when it comes to something like motivation you can be pretty sure that if something drives you then it is likely to be a motivator to others. This seems so obvious but so often you will see a leader abandoning everything that they know about what would motivate them, and instead expect their team to have completely different needs.

sBe clear about purpose. WHY are you all there? 

Your first thought might be ‘for the money’. In actual fact that is only a factor and so long as people are being paid fairly, and what they expected, then it’s a small part.

Purpose is about your ‘why’. Why do you and your team do what you do?

Are you all clear about that? Have you agreed that is why you are there?

Know what your goals are. 

These may be weekly, monthly or annual goals and may vary for individuals. Unless people understand what they are aiming for, how will they know when they get there? Make sure all of your team members have some individual responsibilities so that they can take ownership and be accountable. This makes people feel good and helps them to see where their accomplishments fit into the overall success.

Recognition is vital. This includes everything from a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ to formal recognition of performance and skills development. 

Recognise the small things and celebrate the big things. Be consistent! If you are not then you could be perceived as favouring individuals.

Celebrate success meaningfully. Bringing in cakes every Friday regardless of what went well or badly becomes stale really quickly. Look out for little things you can do personalise your recognition.

Be grateful for the support you get from your team – even when it doesn’t always happen in the way you would like.

Trust has to be built. Your team needs to know they can trust you and vice versa. 

Involve the team in decisions which effect them all and be prepared to trust that someone other than you might know best.

Let others take the lead in their areas of strength. This will show that you trust in them and aid their development.

Be open and transparent. 

Help your team to see the bigger picture. Be honest without betraying confidences. If you can’t do something, explain why not and tell your team what is possible.

Remember that we are all individuals.

Get to know your team members. Gain an understanding of what their personal goals are. What are the benefits, from their perspective, of being a part of the team?

Then help them to achieve their goals. Do things which speak to their individual needs.

Be realistic. 

There is really only so much a person can do within their working hours. If you expect more than is possible, everyone gives up because they can see they will never hit the success sweet spot.

Why would we try at all, if we know from the outset that we will fail?

Perfectionism gets in the way of excellence.

Do it! 

If you say you are going to do something then you must follow through. Nothing disillusions a team quicker than fake promises.

And make sure you feedback: either collectively, or to an individual as appropriate. They need to know what you have done and what the outcomes have been, or should be, as a result of your actions.

Be understanding.

Human beings are complex and lead complex lives. What works for us one day might not be the same the next.

Outside of work we all have lots going on.

It is unrealistic to expect personal lives not to impact at work to some extent. Be caring, compassionate and empathetic. Next time you are having a bad day you will want your team to care about you. Be sure to have evidenced that this is important in everything you do.

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How the words you use matter in leadership

What you say has the power to make or break a person or a situation. The words you use as a leader will have a profound effect on motivation, personal development, and your own success.

With a busy work place, an increased reliance on email, text and ‘fast’ communication, now more than ever you need to mind your language. And, I don’t mean that in the obvious way!

Imagine the scenario. Your leader meets with you and your peers and tells you that budgets are being reduced. They could deliver this in two distinct ways.

They could say ‘we are going to have to make cuts’. Or, ‘we need to find ways of increasing our income’.

The first will instantly make everyone concerned about their jobs and the future of their team. The second will motivate you to start thinking innovatively. The outcomes may be some cuts, but the likelihood is that this will be a managed and more positive process.

The words we use have a lasting impact, positive or negative. Who can forget the boss who lifted us up in the past with a few encouraging words?

Some leaders (we can all name one) feel that the only way to influence people is through criticism, threats and negative words.

Some leaders think that pushing their team through hard words makes them respond better. Sometimes this works, but generally out of fear.

Great leaders influence through words of affirmation and positivity.

If we are to be great ‘human’ leaders then we must want to see people as humans and not machines. Therefore the words we use must treat our colleagues with respect.

Be Kind

Kind words create a kind atmosphere. They have the power to inspire others to change behaviour.

When a great leader speaks, their intention should not be to dominate or control, but to inspire, serve and support.

Have compassion and empathy 

Understanding your team as individuals, and using language which is compassionate and empathetic to their story, is key to positive communications.

Remember your P’s and Q’s

So often I have heard the basic niceties and good manners go out of the window. But, remember more than just saying please and thank you, you have to mean it!

Sorry

This one word holds great power but far too many ‘bosses’ don’t use it.

Somehow, tied up in the hierarchical structure of organisations, there is a perceived weakness in being wrong or sorry about anything.

Which is crazy in itself! No one is perfect. Being able to admit that you may have been wrong, being prepared to say sorry if something has had a negative impact, shows the greatest of strengths.

Great leaders know it, and use it.

Positivity

By taking out negative language you can change the dynamic of almost any conversation.

A really great tip is to ask yourself ‘How would this make me feel?’. If the words you are using would make you feel bad in any way, then stop using them!

Use uplifting and positive language which helps individuals visualise what is possible.

Personalise

This is a simple but effective technique in any conversation. Use the persons NAME!

Evidence that you know who you are talking to, make them feel special and noticed.

Be careful not to overuse it though – that is just annoying and comes across as insincere.

None of this is particularly mind-blowing, but I can assure you that every great leader I have ever worked with has had all of these traits.

Ten steps to support your team through a coaching leadership style

To help your team colleagues meet their potential great leaders use a postive coaching leadership style.

A coaching leadership style recognises, and works with, the individuals needs and considers their specific training, development, and motivation requirements.

The coaching leader looks for opportunities to help colleagues to improve themselves and also takes their preferences into account.

A coaching leader promotes responsibility and independence and their team feel supported and involved in their work.

Whilst a coaching leader is not a coach, they must use coaching skills.

It takes more time than telling people what you want, in the style of an authoritarian leader. Instead of making all decisions and delegating tasks, the coaching leader takes the lead to get the best out of their team colleagues. In the long run this is far more rewarding for both parties.

A coaching leader is closer to their team than the authoritarian leader and will know the individuals better. They will understand the role of the team member and will know what is happening within the team.

By following these ten steps a leader will have different conversations with their team members and as a result, better outcomes.

1. Time

You will need to have made enough time in your diary for the conversation and for follow up. You will need to make the time to notice the little things. You may need to spend time with the individual in their work world to understand any issues, barriers or complexities.

Starting on this journey without investing the time is a recipe for disaster. Your intentions must be backed up through your actions and failing to follow through will demotivate your team and damage your relationship with individuals.

The coaching leader offers enough space and freedom for the individual to talk about the tasks that must be carried out. You will need to ensure that there is time to try things out.

2. Tact

When you function as a coaching leader your team members can call on you in case of personal problems.

In doing so, sensitive and private situations may be discussed. These sensitive matters must be handled tactfully and professionally. You must create a safe space for the individual.

Even if the conversation is entirely work related, we all want to feel safe in admitting where we struggle with certain tasks and why. Tact and diplomacy is needed to ensure that your team member does not feel that they are ‘stupid’ or ‘not good enough’.

3. Open Mind

You need to clear your mind of preconceptions about the person and any issues they may have. You need the individual to feel secure so that they feel safe to explore any issue they have in their own way.

If you have already made up your mind about how you expect them to behave they will pick up on this and it will affect your conversation.

4. Clarity

What are you both aiming to achieve? Is this clear?

You need to make sure that there is absolute clarity about the purpose of the discussion and the ‘rules of engagement’.

You can reassure your colleague through clarity and set the tone for the conversation. You need to be mindful though that this is based on what will work best for them. This will not be a ‘one size fits all’ scenario.

5. Questions

As a coaching leader you should be giving limited instructions. Your colleague needs to be able to think for themselves about a possible solution to a problem by asking questions.

Creativity is to be encouraged.

The questions you ask should draw out the individuals thinking, and give them the opportunity to explore ideas with you.

6. Action and outcomes

Coaching has to result in outcomes. These need to be measurable in some way.

What is to be achieved and when? What support is needed? What might get in the way? These are all questions that must be addressed as part of the conversation. Agreement must be reached and you need to be realistic about what is achievable.

Small positive steps forward are far more motivating than failing at the first hurdle.

Ultimately you need favourable results. Established objectives will take you to where you need to be, step by step. Your aim is to develop and improve the talents of your team member. Thus, the outcomes will be aimed at development rather than task completion.

7. Feedback

Feedback and reflection are the corner stones of any coaching conversation.

Feedback must be provided based on clear measures. Feedback must be professional and must not include any personal judgements or attacks.

Feedback is often only half understood and processed. As part of the conversation recheck whether the person receiving the feedback actually understands it.

8. Safe

You are there to help your team colleague. You need to keep them safe. Watch for signs that they are uncomfortable. Encourage them to step back from whatever is causing that.

Help them to look at matters from different perspectives. Help them to imagine what could be possible.

Make it as easy as you can. This should not be an intimidating conversation.

9. Knowledge and understanding

You should be close to the activities within the team and understand the issues, barriers, and blockages that your team are encountering.

Time spent ‘in’ the work and understanding the way that the work happens is a powerful tool for understanding the challenges that individuals face.

10. Belief

Your role is to believe in people and instil that belief in each one of you team members. If we believe we can then we are much more likely to do so.

Building self belief and confidence is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a leader.

A few words of caution …. Coaching is not always be what is needed.

Whilst coaching is a powerful method of helping a team colleague to overcome difficulties it may not always be the answer.

An individual may be experiencing severe private issues or psychological problems which are impacting their ability to do their job and to develop in their role. In such cases it is vital that you recognise that this goes beyond your skills and that therapy may be a better option. The greatest service you can give is to support them to get the level of support required.

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How to plan now for a successful 2019. Get those goals lined up.

Start with reviewing this year
What went well? What didn’t?
As the leader it is worthwhile you reflecting on your year and focus in on the good, the bad and the ugly. If something went well, why was that? Did you, or someone, do something that made the difference? With the things that went badly, why was that? Be honest with yourself – what could you have done to reach a different outcome.

This exercise should also be carried out with your team.
IN A TOTALLY NON-JUDGEMENTAL WAY!
This is NOT about apportioning blame. It is a grown up conversation for you all to learn from. Focus on the actions and process taken within the tasks and not the individuals.

Use this team meeting to celebrate the SUCCESS too. Whilst you may have got somethings wrong you will have totally nailed others! Don’t let the focus all be on the negative.
Take the learning from this year forward. Maybe you were not clear enough about something? Maybe it was not possible to dedicate enough time to a specific action which result in a goal not being met?
Revise whether that goal is still important. Does it need to come forward onto next years plan? If so what needs to happen to ensure that the blockages are removed and not repeated?

Key Goals
With your team work out what your key goals are for 2019.
Don’t overburden. I have made the common mistake of setting a plan which is simply too ambitious. If you recognise this in yourself be prepared to accept that your plan is very aspirational and pare it back a bit.
At the same time, you don’t want a plan which is under-ambitious. If you are writing a to do list of things that would be done anyway, it will not be in any way motivational.

What and Why?
What do you want to achieve and why? If you don’t understand the why behind your goals you are much less likely to put any energy into them. You and your team need to understand the purpose of what you are all doing. Ask yourself “what would my answer be if someone asks me WHY we are doing this”. If you can’t answer that concisely and immediately then…. well, why are you doing it?

When?
Your goals may well have different timescales, and that’s a good thing. Don’t fall into the trap of putting the last possible date as the deadline for completion on all your goals. Here’s is what will happen. You will ignore them until 3 months before the end date and then realise that you cannot achieve all that in the time you have left.
I have always worked in quarters or 3 month blocks. This was partly driven by internal systems, such as finance, which tend to report quarterly. Now there are about a million advocates of 90 day planning systems. And, they make sense. 3 months, 90 days, a quarter of the year all create a manageable window in which to achieve most goals. A 90 day window also helps with focus.

Big projects, which make take 12 months or even more to complete can likewise be effectively broken down into 3 month chunks. (In fact if you are involved in project management you will know that quarterly reporting to your Board is a key element).

How?
Once you have set your end dates you need to consider HOW you are going to achieve your goals.
Nothing happens without action. The key to success is being as clear as possible EXACTLY what needs to happen, by whole and by when.
Whilst you might have the WHY, the WHAT and the WHEN, without the HOW you might as well stop right now.
So HOW?

What are the tasks, and or, steps needed to achieve success? When must these be done by?What else has to happen? What time do you need to allow for the tasks? Who needs to be involved? How are you going to create the time to make sure these things happen? What are you not going to do? Is there a decision making process to go through?
Answers to all these questions are critical for ensuing that your plan is robust enough to succeed. If you don’t do the detail you won’t reach your end goal.

Scrutinise
Once you have all of that you have your plan. But, don’t stop there. Share it with your team get feedback, review the reality of it think critically about feasibility.
It is better to have half a dozen really robust goals than 20 badly planned ones.
Hey, if you achieve everything in the first few months you can reconvene and add to your 2019 plan!

Be prepared for the unexpected
Nothing is cast in stone. Events along the way will impact. Sudden unexpected new goals will appear. Something else will become less important. Don’t become entrenched with what you thought was right at the beginning of the year.

Review – regularly
Use the plan with your team to review progress. Celebrate even small successes. Re-plan if things are going off track. Adjust where necessary.

Use your plan as a blueprint for your year and plan for your most successful year ever.

The Top Leaders To Be List

As well as having a to DO list I have, for many years, had a to BE list.

We all focus so much on doing that we can forget that we are human BEINGS. How we behave and who we are can have a much more significant impact on our outcomes than what we tick off the to do list.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a to do list. I’m a big fan of action plans and clarity around goals and achievements. But, this is about keeping in sight WHO we are.

As a leader your role is to support your team. To that well who you are and how you behave has to stay front and centre to how you operate. Get the ‘being’ bit right and not only will you feel more at peace with yourself, but your team will support you when you need it too!

So here is my TO BE LIST:

1. Believe in myself.

If I don’t have belief in me, how can I expect any one else to? Self belief is something I have struggled with in the past. It wasn’t until I started to get this that other things fell into place for me.

2. Aim for excellence and not perfection.

I have a whole blog on this in my archive. It’s so important. Striving for perfection will undermine your self belief because NO ONE is perfect. Sometimes we get things perfectly right and that is great. The reality is that we won’t always and if we put all of our energy into trying to achieve the impossible we will:
be exhausted most of the time; and
never meet all our targets.

3. Be clear about my values.

We probably all have organisational values plastered over the walls but have you spent time getting clear about your personal values?

This is well worth doing and I have a free 5 day challenge coming out next year which will be perfect if you want to put some thought into this.

Our values are important to us, and if we compromise them too much or too often then we cannot feel comfortable in ourselves. Some compromise, occasionally, may be necessary but if it costs you your peace then the cost is too high.

You will know what feels right to you.

4. Trust and respect others.

I work on the principle of ‘golden assumption’. I assume the best in people and that their intentions are good. If that proves to be misplaced so be it, but I feel comfortable knowing that I gave everyone a fair chance.

Of course, I have come across people who didn’t deserve that. I can honestly say that the vast majority of people I have worked with are good people trying to do their best, against a backdrop of issues that I may be unaware of.

5. Take time to get to know people

This one is so important to me. To be a more human leader understanding the people I work with is vital if I am to support them to the best of my ability.

I want to know what drives them. I want to understand their values. I want to get clarity about what worries and concerns them.

I believe that only through an understanding of each other can we ever connect. And without connection then I do not know how it is possible to be a good leader.

So, next time you start a new to-do list, take sometime to think about your to-be list.

Think about who you want to become – not what you want to do.

Then you will have some actions to add to your to-do list. What do you need to do in order to be?

How to deal with uncooperative behaviour like a human!

I get asked about this a LOT!

No one is perfect and everyone has things going on in their life which impacts on how they act and react.

My first piece of advice is always, remember we are all human, and deal with individuals – as individuals.

Questions
You need to find out what is going on in their world. To do that you need to be asking some questions.

What is causing the behaviour? There may be very real fears or personal mindset issues at the root of the problem.

Look at your own behaviour.

Are you being consistent and considered in the way that you ask people to do things?

Have you been clear about what is needed and by when?

Have you taken into account whatever else is going on? Are you being realistic?

Have you allowed your own irritation to determine what you THINK and how you ACT towards a person?

Listen
Have you stopped paying attention to what is really going on?

Good leaders will become attentive when someone is not doing well. Your best chance of improving a situation is to understand it from the other person’s perspective.

Listening, and really hearing, will allow you to find out about the real problems that your colleague is experiencing. Then you can work together on the things that you can help to solve.

Give clear feedback
You can waste a lot of time and energy complaining about poor behaviour in colleagues but never actually talking to them about what they could be doing differently.

Sure, this can be uncomfortable. So it’s about doing it in a way which is non-threatening. Listen to their issues; recognise their feelings.

Next, agree on what you can hep to fix: be honest about what you can’t.

Then discuss where they should reconsider their behaviour and think about how their actions might be perceived.

Make it non-confrontational and NOT personal.

Avoid words which will make the colleagues feel attacked.

It’s not ‘THEM’, ‘THEY’ or ‘YOU’. It’s ‘I would…’; ‘I need…’; ‘it would be helpful if…’.

Your role is to give feedback in a way which diffuses your colleague’s defensiveness and gives them the specific information they need to improve or change their approach.

Find ways of making it a win-win situation.

If you are having significant problems, then make sure you WRITE DOWN THE KEY POINTS. This is good for you and good for them. They may be anxious that you have a record of this but stress that this is to ensure that you can both reflect back in the future to review your successes.

Be consistent
If you say you’re not OK with a behaviour, you can’t sometimes be OK with it.

Your team will look to what you do more than what you say. If you are consistent then they will be too.

Set standards you will hold yourself to and everyone else will too.

Be clear about consequences if things don’t change.

Be supportive
What does your team member need? More training? More accountability? Regular update meetings and feedback are vital for supporting your colleagues if you are looking for change or improvement. You need to have provided them with the opportunity to adapt and develop.

Maintain confidentiality
Under no circumstances should you be bad-mouthing a team member to others.This would ensure an environment of distrust and back-stabbing. More than this, it makes you look unprofessional.

Manage your perceptions
Be careful about your thoughts – thoughts become behaviours. Thinking bad things about an individual is going to manifest itself. Likewise, overly positive thoughts about an individual can impact on how you address the situation.

Remain neutral in your thinking.

Good leaders always take a ‘fair witness’ stance, making sure that what they say to themselves about the situation is as accurate as possible.

THINGS NOT IMPROVING?

Get specific
If things still aren’t improving get specific.

Say something along the lines of ‘I still believe you can turn this around. Here’s what turning it around would look like. If I don’t see that happen by x date, here’s what will happen’ (e.g. ‘you’ll be let go’, or ‘you’ll be put on warning’, or ‘you won’t be eligible for promotion’. There needs to be some substantive negative consequence). This will be dictated by your organisation’s policies and procedures, so be sure you know them before you have these conversations.

If a problem employee doesn’t believe their behaviour will have any real negative impact on them – why would they change?

Work through the companies policy and process
As a good leader you will hold out for improvement and provide necessary support until the point where you decide to let a person go. By the time you have got to that stage you need to be sure that you have done everything possible to support your team member.

If you get to this point, you need to be having very clear conversations with YOUR leader, and where appropriate a HR officer, so that you know exactly what you need to do to clear the path to termination of employment, if that turns out to be necessary.

If the buck stops with you, then you need to be sure you have well-documented notes of the steps taken up to that point.

Is there an alternative role?
If this is a performance or capability issue there maybe alternative roles for the person within your organisation which could be perfect for them. Have you looked at where they do perform well and where their skills lie?

Don’t let your frustration with their behaviour impact on your thinking of the bigger picture.

Be courageous
Having to fire someone is the hardest thing you are likely to have to do as a leader.

If it gets to that point, you have to do it right.

If this is not your responsibility, then you must have taken the right steps to enable the decision maker to make an honest and accurate appraisal of what the correct next steps are.

If it is your responsibility don’t make excuses; don’t put it off; don’t make someone else do it.

You need to be satisfied with yourself that you have done your very best in the situation, not matter how things turn out.

But, do it nicely.

The person you are dealing with will have many talents and skills. They are clearly in the wrong role, or wrong type of organisation, for them and won’t necessarily be able to see that for themselves at this stage.

They also have feelings and it is not your job to destroy their self esteem. Do this right and at some point in the future they may well even thank you for it.

10 steps to improve your influence

Never underestimate the influence you have on others.

Whether in a leadership role or not, we all have an impact on those around us. As a leader we have to be aware of who and how we are influencing. 

The ability to influence others (positively) is a skill that leaders must master to be effective. 

Effective leaders don’t command; they inspire, persuade, and encourage. Great leaders tap in to the knowledge and skills of a group. They help individuals to see the common goal. They work towards gaining commitment to achieve results

Your influence will spread much further  than your immediate team. When you influence others they will share it with colleagues, friends, and family. The impact you have on your colleagues can impact on how they feel when they are at home. How they react to their children. How they speak to their partner.

If you are going to have an impact, however small, on the families of the people you lead, you had better make sure it’s a good one! 

An easy mistake to make is to not distinguish between influence and power. 

Power leaders seek control and can abuse the influence they have.

They often think that they deserve respect as a right. They will use intimidation or fear to maintain power.

Leaders who use influence in a healthy way will aim to uncover the greatness in each individual. They work to identify common points of interest, to understand others, and their world. They work to understand the others perspective in any situation. And, offer options that will benefit everyone. They will compromise if possible to enable both sides to leave satisfied. 

To put it bluntly leaders who influence are generally more likeable. 

Your words, actions and attitudes hold the keys to ensuring that your influence is a positive one. 

None are enough on their own. You can’t say all the right things, but then let your actions evidence otherwise. You can’t be seen to do the right things but allow your words or attitudes to undermine your actions. 

Of course, influence can be used in a bad way, and it is NOT ever about manipulating others. But, I know you wouldn’t do that!

TEN STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR INFLUENCE

1. Clearly state what you want. If you are in a position to negotiate be clear about what you want. Ambiguity is a waste of time.

2. Ask questions of others. Find out what others think. Understand other’s points of view.

3. Invite questions from others. Be open and answer questions honestly.

4. Be open to the influence of others. Being influence by others doesn’t show weakness. Be open to other opinions and influence. Be flexible in your approach.

5. Work together toward shared goals. Working together will always gain better results and a shared goal builds camaraderie 

6. Be  authentic. Always! Fake shows up in no time and then you end up looking silly and loose trust.

7. Relationship building. Relationships are the backbone of leadership. If you want to build influence the you are going to need to care for those relationships. 

8. Ask for suggestions, advice, and input. You don’t know it all. And, you don’t need to. Others will be receptive to the opportunity to get involved.

9. Make the case and giving reasons. Be clear about the why and the how when decisions are made or your views are sought. You don’t have to justify, you have to explain to ensure understanding. 

10. Align shared values. Where ever possible the aligning of values will help you and your team to succeed. This isn’t a case of everyone having the same values. It’s about having a core of shared values that everyone can buy into. 

Every single day we are having an impact of some sort of those around us. The important thing is to make our influence and impact positive.